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The Odd Duck In The Group
is still part of the family

By: James R. Davis

You are the lead bike and have a decision to make ... all of the motorcycles are similar except one: it is a trike or a hack. What do you do with it?

There are only a few situations in which I will not allow a motorcycle, of any kind, to ride with my group. First, if it is not street legal, it does not go along. If the rider is impaired in any way, he is not allowed to join us, regardless of the condition of his bike. If the group leader requires that helmets must be worn in his group and the rider of a bike refuses to wear one, he rides in another group. Other than those few conditions, I don't care if the motorcycle is a Honda, a Harley, a Ninja, a trike, or a hack. They are part of the family and welcome to join me (until they demonstrate unsafe practices.)

A trike or a hack presents some unique concerns for me, however. For example, they are wider than the other bikes and effectively must use the full width of a lane. And they, neither of them, are capable of using counter-steering - they are literally steered through the curves.

So? Well, whether you know it or not, a bike that follows another bike obtains several visual cues from the bike ahead of them. These cues are used by the following biker to better anticipate what they must do in order to stay on the road and out of trouble. Such things as lean angle and brake lights are examples of these cues. There is no lean angle on a trike (or most hacks) and braking patterns are different for these kinds of motorcycles and yours.

In other words, you cannot casually assume that you follow one of these odd ducks the same way you do any other motorcycle.

Further, because they are so wide you, when following one of them, are unable to see as much of the road ahead of you as you are used to.

As the lead bike you can help the group out by assigning such an odd duck one of two positions within the group. If the rider of one of these bikes is strong enough and you have confidence enough in him/her, you can ask that person to ride drag for you. This very neatly solves all of the major concerns you might have. On the other hand, if that rider is not known to you, or is not qualified to ride as drag (or does not wish to do so), then that bike should be assigned the second to last position in the group.

In the second to last position that bike directly affects only your drag bike. Since that bike is assumed to be the most competent/prepared of all the rest of the group, it is reasonable to assume that the drag bike can deal with the odd duck. (The drag bike should stretch out his/her following distance to about twice normal to account for there not being a normal width escape path within the lane ahead of it.)

If you have two 'odd ducks' and more than one group, they should be assigned to separate groups. If there is only a single group, the 'odd ducks' belong at the rear of the group or in a separate group of their own.

Final comment (suggested by a trike owner/rider): Never ride next to (try to share a lane with) a trike. It is simply too dangerous as there is insufficient room. Beyond that, the handling characteristics are completely different between a two-wheeled bike and a trike.

Copyright © 1992 - 2024 by The Master Strategy Group, all rights reserved.

(James R. Davis is a recognized expert witness in the fields of Motorcycle Safety/Dynamics.)

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